Is It A Bird, Is It a Plane? No, it’s a Fried Skate Wing!

Please forgive the headline — I couldn’t resist, but in all honesty, there are some similarities between the subject of this post and Clark Kent’s alter-ego. You see, the skate is to the world of fish what the nerdy-looking Kent is to the Daily Planet —a journeyman, overlooked and underrated by those who should know better, and under whose dowdy exterior, there beats the heart of a superhero. Of course, this is where the similarities end because neither are skate found on Krypton nor was Superman a noted contributor to delicious and easy-to-prepare dinners, so I will have to henceforth dispense with the erstwhile theme of this post.

Pan Fried Skate with Fennel, Corn Tomato

Nonetheless, the skate and its delicious wings are definitely worth appreciating. A comparative rarity on menus this side of the Atlantic, skate wing is fairly common in French bistrots and used to be a regular on the menus of fish restaurants across the UK, but the common and white skates are now critically endangered in UK waters and are officially listed by the Marine Conservation Society as “fish to avoid”. In the Americas, almost the reverse is true, at least for the time being, as meatier fish tend to dominate fish menus at the expense of the more delicate white fish, the Pacific coast from Mexico to Alaska is full of the big (or giant – it can grow up to 8 feet in wingspan!) and longnose skates which make for some fine dining.

Skates are a cartilaginous fish in the ray family (you know, stingrays, manta rays, etc.) which is linked comparatively closely (in evolutionary terms) with the shark family, meaning that they are relatively slow breeding and give birth to live young, and are therefore more susceptible to overfishing than the more prolific egg-producing gill fish.

But don’t let this put you off trying skate. Just make sure to ask your fishmonger where the skate he’s selling comes from, and if he doesn’t know, make him find out for you. All good butchers know the provenance of their meats, so why should fishmongers not be as knowledgeable about their wares?

When purchasing skate, make sure it’s fresh and without any ammoniacal odor, as for some reason I could find no explanation for they tend to go off faster than normal white fish. Also, you should ask your fishmonger to remove the “bones” from the skate for you. This makes it easier to cook and eat because the wings contain a fan of bones that can otherwise be a chore to remove with a knife and fork.

The classic preparation is pan-fried au beurre noisette, or with a brown butter and caper sauce, which adds richness and acid to what is basically a flaky white fish, but because for us a fish meal tends to be a cathartic measure (albeit an enjoyable one) designed to make us feel healthier, we combined our pan-fried skate wing with a salad of finely-sliced fennel, fennel tops and tomato, and some steamed asparagus with a simple vinaigrette. However, feel free to also enjoy it in the typical manner as a little fat not only helps the fish remain moist, it brings out the best flavors of the delicate skate flesh.

Pan-Fried Skate Wing with Fennel & Tomato Salad (serves 2)

Pan Fried Skate with Fennel, Corn Tomato


1 whole skate, bones removed (8-10oz, uncooked)

1cup regular (not extra virgin) olive oil, or canola/vegetable oil

1 fennel bulb, sliced finely. Reserve fennel tops and chop finely also.

1 large tomato, diced

1/2 fresh corn cob, boiled and kernels removed

3tbsp good olive oil

1tbsp lemon juice

1tsp smooth dijon mustard

3tbsp plain flour

salt & white pepper to taste


Put fennel (including tops), tomato and corn into a non-reactive bowl and mix well with vinaigrette. Allow to sit and steep for at least 30minutes or as long as overnight.

Heat oil in a frying pan to medium-high, around 350F.

Dust skate with flour and season with salt. Pat off excess and gently lay in the hot oil until nicely browned and crisp all over (2-3mins per side, approx.)

Remove fish to a plate and gently pat dry with paper towels. Dress with the fennel salad and add an extra splash of olive oil to moisten the whole thing a bit, then serve.

Check out these other posts you might enjoy:

Orecchiette with Sausage and Kale

Lebanese Food in A Small Brooklyn Kitchen

Another Easy Meal – Tortilla Soup

Something’s Fishy ‘Round Here: Livornese Fish Stew (il cacciucco alla Livornese)

23 thoughts on “Is It A Bird, Is It a Plane? No, it’s a Fried Skate Wing!

  1. I’m inspired–thanks! I’ve seen skate prepared on cooking shows in the past (remember Great Chefs, Great Cities?), and I’m happy to hear is an good choice at the fish counter for now. I’m going to have to make this.

  2. Another lovely recipe from you guys! Thanks for the deboning tip by the way. I just never thought to ask the fishmonger to do it, and have spent my entire life picking out the bones from my wings. At least they’re quite large and not likely to get stuck in your throat. Can’t wait to buy some, de-boned of course…

  3. I love this blog because it’s like a food display case and school lesson wrapped in a tortilla of humor. I always learn at least one or five things, whether it’s figs, fish, weird cooking devices, or whatever.

    Amy and Jonny, you are kind of a big deal 🙂

  4. I’ve never had skate before. I’ve seen it only once at the supermarket I usually go to but was too chicken to get it, not knowing what to do with it once I took it home.

    Those ridges on the skate wing, I suppose, are where the bones must have been, eh? If so, I can just imagine how good the skateyflesh is going to be there. Ooh, ooh, ooh. And frying? Fried seafood is so delicious.

  5. I love skate fish. The flavor always reminds me of crab or scallops( shellfishy). I see it in restautants , nut rarely in the stores here in Chicago. In splurged once for a dinner party. Fantastic. Yours looks way more crispier than when I pan fried mine.

  6. Oooh skate. One fish I’ve never had the joy of cooking. The only time I’ve eaten it, it had a piece of pork belly that had been confited overnight and then deep-fried to crispity goodness. :\

    That salad is full of Win, too.

  7. Ah, I wish I could find skate here, I’ve always wanted to try it. I’ll try to ask my fishmongers if they can find some. What a great inspiriation.

    I’ve caught plenty of shark fishing offshore. If one wants to keep a shark, one must immediately bleed it and put it on ice, as shark (ahem) pee through their meat and skin into the surrounding water. Ice prevents this from happening. If you don’t ice them down immediately after catching them, the death of the shark releases a bunch of pee through the meat and skin, thus kinda tainting the flavor. I assume skates have the same anatomy, so I’m guessing that’s the ammonia smell thing.

    But man, that look good!

  8. Every time I see skate I’m tempted to buy it… but I’m never certain what to do with it. I guess this reduces the number of excuses I have for next time, huh?

  9. I too love skate – my husband doesn’t though. The last time I bought a skate wing it was so huge I could hardly fit it into the pan – I also serve mine with brown butter. Yours looks delicious.
    PS. There is a award for you on my foodblog – please pop over.

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